Pablo Neruda wrote odes to Chilean foods, but he left out one of the most beloved of all: the Completo. Some might think I’m talking about a Chilean hot dog, but don’t be fooled! Don’t believe me? Check out: A Hotdog is Not a Completo.
When it comes to a frankfurter on a bun, it’s hard to beat the Chilean version—the completo—for a colorfully creative revelry in excess gunkyness. And it is so well loved that there are entire Facebook pages dedicated to it!
Serious about Completos: Love ‘em or Fear ‘em!
A completo is one of those love it or fear it sandwiches that gets my vote for the most Chilean of all Chilean foods. Sure, there are plenty of places in the world to get a good dog with the usual mustard, ketchup, relish, and maybe a bit of sauerkraut, but in Chile, that’s no completo… Where’s the mayonnaise? (No self-respecting Chilean sandwich is complete until duly plopped and topped with mayo). What about the green chilies? The tomatoes? If you’re going without, what you’ve got is an “incompleto.”
And, as long as we’re getting all Chilean about our favorite dog, let’s not forget the palta (avocado). Yep, Chileans love their avocado… in fact, I’ve heard that this is the only place in the world that you can find the McDonald “McPalta” burger… but Chilean avocado-love will have to wait for a well-deserved post all its own.
Back to the completo…
Curiously, the version that seems to be the most Chilean of all—topped with tomato, mayo, and avocado—is actually called the “Italiano,” as a tribute to the red, white, and green colors of the Italian flag. In fact, many Chilean sandwiches can be ordered “Italiano,” which will always get you a heap of these 3 colorful ingredients.
If you’ve never seen one, take a look as Anthony Bourdain tackles his first completo in Viña del Mar.
The Completo does a World Tour
A while back I posted on the clues to Chilean identity found on a soda fountain window, and in the conversation that ensued in the comments section, our friend Marmo asked John, another regular reader in Japan, how much it would cost to make a completo there. John estimates it would be about US$4–5. Hmmm, I’ll stick with sushi.
With that, Marmo and I got to wondering about the cost of a completo in other parts of the world. He asked a friend in the UK who calculated it to be £6—that’s $4.808 Chilean pesos or a whopping US$9.11! (Jeesh! Fish & chips it is then!)
Sebastián in Germany said it costs him about €1, which he seemed to think was high adding “considering how expensive paltas are here.”
But the best response of all came from Matt Murphy, foodie, friend, and extended family member in Upstate New York (which, FYI, means close to Canada, despite what anyone from NYC seems to think). Before I could finish the detailed description and he had his sleeves rolled up and his shopping cart rolling. He took up the challenge with all the detail of the engineer that he is by day and the delight of the chef that he is at heart.
Matt quickly reported back with pictures and a detailed cost chart that showed that one good Chilean Completo made in February (winter) in Syracuse, NY would cost exactly US$3.00.
“Not a bad dog!” he posted on Facebook, “A little unruly to eat with all the filling (I even bought the heartier ‘steak sandwich’ bun) but then I don’t mind getting my hands dirty for something like this. All in the name of Science.”
So here goes: a serious gringo’s photographic step-by-step guide to the Chilean Completo!
Thanks Matt! (Let’s talk about empanadas next time!)
Sandwich fan? Want to know more about Chilean sandwiches? You can start by checking out:
Or check out the Matador tribute to “The World-Wide Wiener: Hot dogs around the world.“